Trump’s Decision On DACA Expected Tuesday

President Trump is threatening to end a program that has benefited at least 750,000 innocent people.


After months of silence on the issue, the Trump Administration appears ready to announce its decision on the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that was implemented by the Obama Administration roughly three years ago, a program that allowed thousands of people brought to the United States as children to remain in the country notwithstanding the fact that they were undocumented:

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday said he would announce a decision by Tuesday on whether he will end the Obama-era program that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation, declaring, “We love the Dreamers” even as his White House grappled with how to wind down their legal status.

Mr. Trump has agonized publicly over the fate of immigrants who were brought to the United States without authorization as children, and who are now protected from deportation and allowed to work under the five-year-old program created by his predecessor.

In recent days, White House officials have recommended that the president end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which currently shields about 800,000 undocumented immigrants who would be subject to potential deportation to countries that many of them have not seen since birth.

Several administration officials said that Mr. Trump is likely to phase out the program, but his advisers have engaged in a vigorous behind-the-scenes debate over precisely how to do so. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision was final, also cautioned that the president was conflicted about the issue and could suddenly change his mind.

As a candidate, Mr. Trump pledged to immediately terminate the program. But he has stalled for months, expressing anguish about a sympathetic group of undocumented immigrants he has called “incredible kids.” His hard-line advisers, however, have counseled that the program was illegal and must not be maintained.

Asked on Friday whether DACA recipients, often called Dreamers, should be worried, Mr. Trump did not respond directly, but he did express his sympathy.

“We love the Dreamers — we love everybody,” the president said in the Oval Office, surrounded by faith leaders after signing a proclamation of a day of prayer for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. “We think the Dreamers are terrific.”

Later, he told reporters he had “great feeling for DACA,” while declining to answer repeated questions about whether he believes the program is legal.

But in recent days, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, have privately made it clear to Mr. Trump that they could not defend the program in court, and a group of state attorneys general led by Ken Paxton in Texas have threatened to mount a legal challenge if the president did not act to end it by Tuesday.

Complicating the calculus for Mr. Trump has been the storm pummeling Texas, the state with the second-highest concentration of DACA recipients, after California. John F. Kelly, Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, has argued privately that the president can take his time on the decision, given that Mr. Paxton is unlikely to follow through on his threat in the short term, with parts of his state under water, two officials said.

And it is not lost on the president that ending the program now — with many Dreamers directly impacted by Harvey — would appear particularly hardhearted.

Asked Friday whether the Dreamers impacted by the storm in Texas and Louisiana were weighing on the president as he contemplated the fate of the program, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “The decision itself is weighing on him, certainly.”

That much was evident on Friday, as Mr. Trump sent mixed messages about when the final call would come.

In a midday appearance in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump first told reporters the decision was at hand, scheduled for later Friday or over the weekend. About an hour later, during another set of off-the-cuff Oval Office remarks, he said the final word would come over the weekend, or Monday at the latest. Only two hours after that, Ms. Sanders pushed the timeline still further, saying the announcement would come on Tuesday.

As the decision day nears, Trump finds himself being pulled in two different directions. On one side there are Texas and a group of other Republican-controlled states, who are threatening to sue the Administration if Trump doesn’t announce a repeal of the Obama Administration program by Tuesday as well as legal adviser such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Counsel Don McGahn, who are telling him that they cannot defend the program in Court. On the other, there is intense political pressure to keep the program in place or to at least make some provision for those people who have been covered by the program since its inception and acted in reliance upon it. This has included comments from Republicans on Capitol Hill urging the President to keep the program in place, including Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch, as well a host of other Republicans such as Florida Governor Rick Scott and North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis. Outside of politics, support for keeping the program is coming from the business community and religious groups. Additionally, Speaker Ryan has voiced support for Congressional legislation that would essentially codify the DACA program by extending the protections given to this group of people, which the Pew Research Center has estimated to be more than 750,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country before they turned 16 years old. One possibility appears to be that this legislation would be attached to upcoming votes on the budget and the debt ceiling in an effort to ensure that it passes easily enough, but with so much on its plate in September and a limited amount of time to get it done it’s unclear what if anything Congress can realistically do on this subject.

While he was running for President, of course, Trump said repeatedly that he would “immediately terminate” DACA, which like other Republicans former President Obama had enacted illegally. After the election, though, it appeared that Trump was considering changing his mind. In an interview in January with ABC’s David Muir, for example, Trump said that the people who received deferred status under the program “shouldn’t be very worried,” and adding:  ”I do have a big heart. We’re going to take care of everybody… But I will tell you, we’re looking at this, the whole immigration situation, we’re looking at it with great heart.” Additionally, Trump made other seeming promises to these so-called “Dreamers,” that he would not necessarily pull the rug out from underneath them. Taking all that into account, it

Taking all that into account, it’s unclear what will be announced on Tuesday and the White Hosue seems to be managing to keep the final decision, assuming that it’s been made, a secret until the time to release it comes. As things stand, though, Trump basically has three options. First, he could choose to keep the program in place and risk a lawsuit from Texas and the other states speaking out against the program. This would essentially throw the matter to the legal system, but it would put the obligation on the Trump Administration to defend the program in Court notwithstanding the position that Sessions and others advising Trump may be taking on the issue. Second, Trump could seek to end the program altogether and thus subject three-quarters of a million people at risk of being deported notwithstanding the fact that they did not make a conscious choice to break any laws on their own. Finally, Trump could take the lead from Paul Ryan and kick the matter over to Congress for action while temporarily keeping the program in place until they do act.

As a matter of policy, of course, the obvious answer is that DACA should be kept in place. In addition to the fact that the people who have benefitted from the program did not consciously break any laws since they were brought here by their parents, there are also several other factors that lean heavily toward keeping it in place. For example, these are people who have essentially grown up in the United States and don’t really have any connection to their country of origin. They went to American schools, speak English, and have largely adopted American culture as their own. Sending them back to a country they have no real connection to would be cruel and inhumane, and would deprive the United States of the contributions that they can make to the economy and the country. Additionally, repealing the program would impose real costs on the economy that can’t be ignored. One study estimates that repealing DACA would result in billions of dollars of compliance costs being imposed on American businesses, money that could be better spent in an expansion that would actually benefit the economy. Furthermore, targeting this group for deportation would mean losing out their actual and potential contributions to the economy and culture that they grew up in.

At this point, it’s hard to tell what Trump is going to do here, but given who we’re talking about the assumption that he’ll do something dumb and inhumane is, unfortunately, probably the most accurate.

Update: Politico is reporting Sunday night that Trump will announce that he is ending DACA, but delaying implementation of the delay for six months.

President Donald Trump has decided to end the Obama-era program that grants work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the country as children, according to two sources familiar with his thinking. Senior White House aides huddled Sunday afternoon to discuss the rollout of a decision likely to ignite a political firestorm — and fulfill one of the president’s core campaign promises.

Trump has wrestled for months with whether to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. He has faced strong warnings from members of his own party not to scrap the program and struggled with his own misgivings about targeting minors for deportation.

Conversations with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who argued that Congress — rather than the executive branch — is responsible for writing immigration law, helped persuade the president to terminate the program, the two sources said, though White House aides caution that — as with everything in the Trump White House — nothing is set in stone until an official announcement has been made.

In a nod to reservations held by many lawmakers, the White House plans to delay the enforcement of the president’s decision for six months, giving Congress a window to act, according to one White House official. But a senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, “thinks Congress should’ve gotten its act together a lot longer ago.”

Trump is expected to announce his decision on Tuesday, and the White House informed House Speaker Paul Ryan of the president’s decision on Sunday morning, according to a source close to the administration. Ryan had said during a radio interview on Friday that he didn’t think the president should terminate DACA, and that Congress should act on the issue.

In theory, this means Congress could act to codify the program, but the odds of this Congress doing anything of the sort are pretty much somewhere between slim and none.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Argon says:

    His position: “You’re fired, DACA!”

    What a dick.

  2. Argon,

    It’s insane.

  3. Jpe77 says:

    for those people who have been covered by the program since its inception and acted in reliance upon it.

    Yeah, they were totally going to leave, but we induced them to stay.

  4. Terrye Cravens says:

    Trump is going to be even more unpopular after this.

  5. JohnMcC says:

    On the SS St Louis there were 900 Jews. There are 800,000 Dreamers.

  6. Hal_10000 says:

    Once again, we see one of Trump’s defining characteristics: a complete lack of empathy for anyone who is not him.

  7. David M says:

    DACA = Obama’s unconstitutional power grab to the GOP

    Congress could have passed a law that ended (replaced) DACA at any time, if the GOP would allow it. I think we have to believe the GOP and their lack of action, they really don’t want to protect anyone covered by DACA, regardless of their public statements.

  8. mike shupp says:

    Trump … could choose to keep the program in place and risk a lawsuit from Texas and the other states speaking out against the program.

    Oh, absolutely! This is indeed the golden moment for Texans of all races, creeds, and political parties to stand erect, in the eyes of all America, beside their political and religious leaders, and demand — loudly, proudly, on every possible venue — that not an ounce of money nor mercy should ever be dispensed to a single Dreamer. Yes indeedy, the eyes of the world would be focused on Texas!

    And I suspect it might really speed up federal budget negotiations this year and the next.

  9. Mr. Prosser says:

    @David M: They are going to get their chance. I read this morning Trump won’t cancel DACA for 6 months in order to give Ryan the legislative opportunity to make DACA a law. Fat chance. If it weren’t for the fact that this is all playing with 800,000 lives I’d be enjoying the Trump/Ryan shark fest. As it is it just makes me ashamed.

  10. CSK says:

    In early December 2016, Trump said of DACA, “We’re going to work something out that will make people happy and proud.” He has, as he assured us several times, “a great heart.”

    Yeah, sure.

    But really…who the hell knows what this cretin is going to do or say tomorrow?

  11. teve tory says:

    I wondered what the stupids are thinking, so i went to gateway pundit:

    BREAKING REPORT: POTUS Trump to End DACA – With Six Month Delay
    by Carter 229 Comments

    President Trump ended the Obama-era program that grants work permits to illegal immigrants that arrived in this country illegally with their lawbreaking parents or guardians, according to Politico’s Eliana Johnson, who cites “two sources familiar with his thinking.”

    Sunday, Senior White House aides met to discuss the rollout of one of the President’s key campaign promises – ending DACA.

    The President spent months mulling over the decision of whether or not to get rid of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. A number of anti-Trump GOP members attempted to deter the President from scrapping the program, but the law must be upheld and abnormalities and ways in which people cheat the system should not be rewarded as other Americans lose out to jobs children of illegal immigrants get to have . . . Not to mention diversity quotas that basically guarantee they get hired over other Americans.

  12. teve tory says:

    “illegal immigrants that arrived in this country illegally with their lawbreaking parents or guardians”

    Jim Hoft is probably rolling in the dough if he’s outsourcing the writing to 7-year-olds now.

  13. CSK says:

    @teve tory:

    Oh, yeah. The top writing and reporting talent is absolutely salivating, I tell you, just salivating to go work for The Gateway Pundit.

  14. dmichael says:

    @Terrye Cravens: Not among his supporters.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @Terrye Cravens:

    Trump is going to be even more unpopular after this.

    I wish I could agree with you. Not only do I think what he’s doing won’t drive his ratings lower, I think there’s a distinct possibility he’ll get a slight boost in the polls. His ratings are so low right now practically the only people still sticking with him consist of his hardcore base. I don’t think there are very many people in America who currently approve of Trump but who will change their mind from seeing him act racist. But I think quite a few of the people who been giving Trump negative ratings consist of nativists who have been clamoring to see some action from the administration in its war on brown people.

  16. Hurling Dervish says:

    @teve tory: It sounds better in the original Russian.

  17. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Tis ais an easy one to figure out.

    1) Trump ends DACA with 6 month delay. Throwing raw meat to his base.

    2) GOP realizes it is a dramatic error, reaches across to DEMs, passes law for a path to Citizenship for the DACA affected.


    Trump gets credit for being tough with his base,

    GOP finds a win that makes them seem “reasonable” (as DACA is supported by a great majority of Americans)

    Dems… well, nothing for the Dems. They get to be blamed for all by the GOP once the GOP is no longer in power .

    It’s all theatre at this point.

  18. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: As Kevin Drum at MoJo posits, DACA may be trade bait to Dems for wall funding funding.

  19. teve tory says:

    I was working at a Home Depot last year in the Deep South and this dipshit tells me, with a big grin on his face, “Finally we’re gonna have a president with the balls to drag 11 million illegals outta here kickin and screamin!”

    Hillary got in trouble for telling the truth about them.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    Apparently, some people might pay dearly for supporting the disgrace in the White House…hardly surprising, though, considering how so many others who trusted this dirtbag were betrayed by him…

  21. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mr. Prosser: So Dems should help cover the GOP on the Dreamers (helping the GOP out of their hole) and in return get less funding for a wall that everyone knows is a stupid idea and the Dems can probably block anyway?

    Sorry, I’m not seeing the bottom line benefit here. Where’s the payoff?

  22. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Mr. Prosser:

    Not gonna happen.

    Do Dems believe in a secure border? Absolutely.

    However When POTUS Trump was a candidate, he stated that Mexico will pay.

    He will have to eat those words, and lay 1,989 miles of bricks by hand before the DEMs will support him on this.

    This is not the DEM’s problem, as the GOP has Pres, House and Senate until at least the mid-terms. It’s their own issue. They have been beating that horse for years.

  23. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Liberal Capitalist:

    Trump gets credit for being tough with his base,

    GOP finds a win that makes them seem “reasonable” (as DACA is supported by a great majority of Americans)…

    It’s all theatre at this point.

    Nailed it:

  24. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Personally I hope the Dems don’t bite on this. Drum seems to think a “permanent” DACA solution is worth a few billion towards a wall. The operative word is permanent, and I wouldn’t trust Ryan et. al. to not blow it all up later.

  25. CSK says:

    Mnagolini appears to have lobbed the whole thing back at Congress.

  26. Hal_10000 says:

    As an aside, this is an example of why government through Executive Order is such a bad idea. Because it leaves major policy at the whim of the executive. 700k people trusted DACA. Came forward and gave all their details to the federal government. Now that trust will be rewarded by Trump using the very information they gave to deport them to countries they’ve never lived in.